In this deeply engaging oral history, Doug Williams, Anishinaabe elder, teacher, and mentor to Leanne Betasamosake Simpson recounts the history of the Michi Saagiig Nisnaabeg, tracing through personal and historical events, and presenting what manifests as a crucial historical document that confronts entrenched institutional narratives of the history of the region. Edited collaboratively with Simpson, the book uniquely retells pivotal historical events that have been conventionally unchallenged in dominant historical narratives, while presenting a fascinating personal perspective in the singular voice of Williams, whose rare body of knowledge spans back to the 1700s. With this wealth of knowledge, wit, and storytelling prowess, Williams recounts key moments of his personal history, connecting them to the larger history of the Anishinaabeg and other Indigenous communities.
This book gives us an alternative perspective on historical records that is both personal and collective. Doug Williams reminds us of the generations of Indigenous knowledge keepers and of a history that stretches back prior to European contact-including the disruption of contact. This book is his gift to the Michi Saagiig and to all Anishinaabek. It is also a gift to Canadians who want to help decolonize this country. — Armand Garnet Ruffo
Storytelling is not just a gift. It’s not just an art. It’s also a responsibility: the weaving together of history, philosophy, culture, and humour frequently highlighting a culture’s perspective on the world. Doug Williams has been doing this for as long as I can remember. He lives the culture, not just talks about it. The people and places he talks about in Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg are more a part of our history than all the things going on in Ottawa. — Drew Hayden Taylor